The smugglers have jumped ship again. A merchant vessel filled with migrants has been left floating — unmanned — in the Mediterranean Sea. The Ezadeen, with 400 migrants aboard, lost power in stormy seas off the Italian coast just days after another uncrewed vessel carrying 1,000 migrants was saved. Rescuers fear this is the start of a dangerous and costly new trend in human trafficking. The Italian coast guard is using helicopters to access the 197-foot ship floating off of Italy’s heel.
The Presidential Daily Brief
The case against the alleged Boston Marathon bomber promises some catharsis, but also opens anew a death penalty debate. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s attorney is famous for plea deals that spare her clients death row. But the feds seem determined to add the Bostonian to death row in a state where it’s outlawed locally. Jury selection begins Monday, from one of the largest pools ever called. The defense is expected to focus on the influence of Tsarnaev’s older brother. Bostonians hope for closure. Tsarnaev appears to hope for life in prison.
Buckingham Palace denies any impropriety with a minor on behalf of the Duke of York. But he may want to revisit his list of friends. The prince is cozy with mogul Jeffrey Epstein, who served 18 months for having sex with an underage prostitute. In a lawsuit motion filed this week, the victim says she had sex with the prince and famed legal eagle Alan Dershowitz. The latter roundly denounced the charge. But that doesn’t mean the case — or the publicity — will vanish.
One of the most eloquent orators in politics is gone. The three-term New York governor known for some of the 20th century’s most moving speeches died yesterday, just hours after his eldest son was sworn in for his second term as governor. Cuomo personified the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, opposing Ronald Reagan’s view of America in a powerful speech at the 1984 Democratic National Convention. But Cuomo may be most remembered for flirtations with a White House run that never came.
Things are looking up for more than three million American workers. The New Year brought in new laws requiring employers to pay more per hour to those earning the least. Twenty-nine states and Washington, D.C., now exceed the federal minimum wage of $7.25. Washington State offers the highest statewide minimum at $9.47. Some rises add up to just a few cents an hour, but in other states bigger bumps of a dollar or more are expected to help boost the economy.
He’s sticking to plan. Despite Japan’s descent into recession, Shinzo Abe is shooting his “third arrow” of Abenomics. His economic policy has led to increased government spending and quantitative easing, but now comes a pledge for much-needed structural reforms. With a shrinking working population, Abe’s also looking to increase the role of women — particularly moms — by providing more state-funded child care. Critics fear reforms will be too little too late to pull Japan back from the brink.
Investigative team arrives to aid search for AirAsia black box. (BBC)
Chinese leader orders probe into deadly New Year’s stampede. (FT) sub
Afghan soldiers arrested after wedding bombing kills 17. (DW)
IV hydration therapy for Ebola patients proves controversial in Africa. (NYT)
French economist Thomas Piketty says ‘non’ to top honor. (France 24)
One writer quipped that Jeb Bush would be willing to resign as George W.’s brother to help his ratings soar. He may not go that far, but the former Florida governor has resigned his corporate and nonprofit board memberships — a move signaling a “potential” presidential run, his spokeswoman said. He will test the waters with donors this month, and Republicans have begun assessing whether Bush — considered liberal on issues like immigration — is their best hope for 2016.
New research reveals that most adult-onset cancers are due to “bad luck,” with just one third caused by environmental factors or genetics. Scientists at Johns Hopkins developed a statistical model to measure cancer incidence and causes — notably excluding breast and prostate cancers — and found that dumb luck in cell division is often to blame. Unhealthy behaviors like smoking and excessive drinking should still be avoided, but the study highlights the need for more research and screening for early detection.
Will the megachain’s new offering fall flat? The McDonald’s of beans is brewing up a new hot beverage known to Aussies, Kiwis and Brits as a flat white, comprised of a concentrated espresso shot and a dollop of milk. At least that’s the general concept. Interpretations of the drink vary widely, from a “wet cappuccino with more steamed milk than foam” to basically a “small latte.” Either way, baristas have until January 6 — the launch date — to figure it out.
Americans bought just 1.26 billion cinema tickets in 2014, the fewest in two decades. Experts blame fatigue with franchises like The Hunger Games and young people distracted by tech gadgets. Yet ticket sales surged 36 percent in the People’s Republic —the world’s second-largest film market — where homegrown productions accounted for more than half of the $4.76 billion in Chinese sales. The happy ending? This year’s installments of Star Wars and 007 could set new records in Hollywood.
Jameis Winston may want to rewind the clock to 2014. The Seminoles’ quarterback made a comical fumble late in the third quarter, giving the Ducks a 58-yard touchdown return that added to a 59-20 rout. Oregon’s trouncing ended Florida State’s 29-game winning streak and sends the Ducks to the national championship against Ohio State on January 12. The bruising loss will fuel the debate over Winston’s character, especially if he heads to the NFL as many expect.